Manning-led Giants win seventh-in-a-row

SUPER Bowl champions The New York Giants shrugged off the latest publicity surrounding absent receiver Plaxico Burress to defeat Washington 23-7 on Sunday.

Eli Manning passed for a season-high 305 yards and a touchdown in the rain, and John Carney kicked three field goals for the Giants, who won their seventh straight game and improved to 11-1.

The victory came despite the absence of Burress. Expected to be sidelined by a hamstring injury, Burress was nonetheless in the spotlight after suffering an accidental and apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to his leg at a New York City nightclub on Friday night.

“That’s what’s been on peoples’ minds, is his health,” Manning said. “We’re hoping that he has a speedy recovery.

“He’s a teammate, he’s a friend, and that’s all we’re worrying about. We got an update and heard that he’s doing well and should be getting out of the hospital soon.”

Without the Giants’ leader in receiving yardage, Manning spread the ball around to six other receivers. He completed 21 of 34 passes, including a 40-yard touchdown to Amani Toomer.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin was glad to see his team remain focused on playing football.

“We are all upset about what happened with Plaxico, and hopefully he will be fine,” Coughlin said.

“Once we knew he was going to be OK, the guys were all able to go back to focusing on the reason we are here.”

In Minneapolis, Minnesota won a battle for first place in the NFC North with a 34-14 victory over Chicago.

Gus Frerotte threw a 99-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian and also rushed for a score as the Vikings improved to 7-5 and Chicago fell to 6-6.

Berrian reeled in the 11th touchdown reception of 99 yards in NFL history for Minnesota. Adrian Peterson rushed 28 times for 131 yards and a touchdown, and Chester Taylor added a 21-yard touchdown run for the Vikings.

In a battle of first-place teams, AFC West leaders Denver cooled off red-hot AFC East leaders the New York Jets 34-17.

In a driving rainstorm, Denver’s Jay Cutler threw for 357 yards and two touchdowns and rookie Peyton Hillis ran for 129 yards and a TD.

A wild first quarter featured two touchdowns that seemingly should have not been allowed, four scores of 20 or more yards, a 100-yard rusher and 41 points.

Despite a modest 7-5 record, the Broncos hold a three-game lead in the AFC West over San Diego, who fell to Atlanta 22-16.

The Jets came into the contest on a five-game winning streak, including a triumph over previously unbeaten Tennessee. Despite the defeat, the Jets retained a one-game lead atop the AFC East over New England, who fell 33-10 at home to Pittsburgh. The Patriots fell into a second-place tie with the Miami Dolphins, who beat the Rams 16-12 in St. Louis.

Tampa Bay and Carolina remained tied atop the NFC South with victories.

The Buccaneers defeated New Orleans 23-20 thanks to Matt Bryant’s 32-yard field goal with 1:55 to play.

Bryant’s field goal was set up by Jermaine Phillips 10-yard interception return to the Saints 17 yard line.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, who rallied the Saints from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit, also was intercepted by Phillip Buchanon with 1:36 remaining, which sealed the victory for the Bucs.

Tampa Bay improved to 9-3 and remained tied with the Panthers, who downed the Packers 35-31 in Green Bay.

Steve Smith’s 54-yard reception set up DeAngelo Williams’ fourth touchdown of the game — a one-yard run with 1:30 to play that gave Carolina the victory.

In other games, San Francisco beat Buffalo 10-3, Baltimore defeated Cincinnati 34-3 and Kansas City beat Oakland 20-13. Indianapolis overcame three turnovers, including two by quarterback Peyton Manning, to beat Cleveland 10-6.

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